[Jesus said:] “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” ~ Luke 12:49-56
Division has been part of life since humans have been part of life. Arguments, anger, polemics, disagreements, fights...
All part of the human experience.
And with Jesus, it seems like that should be a thing of the past, doesn't it? Especially among Christians. But Jesus knew better. Jesus knew us better.
Jesus knew the human heart. As did the gospel writer of Luke. Much of what Jesus said here came to pass when families were divided and torn apart by faith - some choosing the new Christian path and being kicked out of their families for it.
Christians are still fighting each other, as well as fighting those in other faiths. Christians on both sides of the political aisle have strong opinions about things like immigration, abortion, gun control, taxes, race relations, election handling, and lately, what happened on January 6th, 2021.
These disagreements have turned downright brutal in places. Former friends now hate each other. Trust has worn away.
Have we taken Jesus a little too literally with this passage?
I don't think Jesus is advocating for division here. I think he knew full well our capacity to hate and to focus on ourselves rather than the real peace - the real Shalom - that he did come to offer.
Instead, we look for peace on our terms - peace that includes shutting the other out or worse, hating or killing the other.
But if we look for the real signs of Jesus - the truth of his message and sacrifice - we would see that division is not the path we are called to. We would see that "love your neighbor" and "love your enemy" are the path of Shalom.
Help me not to hate. Help me to heal. Amen